For a brand that has traditionally been associated with children’s entertainment, Disney has done surprisingly well at pulling in older subscribers to its own streaming platform, Disney Plus, with almost two-thirds of the US audience made up of Gen-Z or millennial subscribers.
The entertainment company has come a long way from Mickey Mouse and animated fairytales, using properties like Marvel and Star Wars to appeal to older audiences.
In 2021, the MCU tugged on nostalgic heartstrings in Spider-Man: No Way Home when (spoiler warning) all three Spider-Man actors returned to the big screen at the same time, to face down villains from across the trilogies.
Tobey Maguire first donned the skin-tight suit of Spider-Man in 2002, while Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man film came out ten years later in 2012.
Between these two and Tom Holland, the three actors pull in Spider-Man fans from across 30 years, who all grew up watching a different web-slinging hero.
Disney is using the same tactics in its Star Wars productions, with a CGI version of Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker making an appearance in The Mandalorian Season Two finale and by returning to the story of bounty hunter Boba Fett in his own show, last seen in The Return of the Jedi in 1983.
By breathing new life into these well-loved characters from the past, Disney is capitalising on the disposable income of child-free millennials.
Not only is this a pivot in business, but there’s also a shift in the stories being told.
WandaVision still exists in the world of superheroes, but instead of action sequences, we got a heartfelt exploration of what grief looks like, particularly relevant for an audience living through a global pandemic.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wasn’t just about how good Sam Wilson was at beating up bad guys, but also about the racial inequalities that still exist in modern-day America.
Disney has begun to use these franchises to hold the mirror up to important issues in a way that can only truly be appreciated by older audiences.
With 2022 releases like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and an Obi-Wan Kenobi TV show, it seems Disney is not slowing down in its race to capture older audiences.